The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a fantastic unanimous decision today, confirming what the ACLU has been saying for the past few years -- human genes are a product of nature and cannot be patented.
This decision, involving the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, is so important for the women's health. Mutations of these genes are a key indicator that women are at much higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer -- so much so that many women told they have the mutations of these genes decide to get mastectomies and have their ovaries removed.
This is the mutation that prompted Angelina Jolie to get a mastectomy.
For years, a Utah-based company called Myriad Genetics has held the patent on these genes, giving it a monopoly on all testing and research. That meant women, like Lisbeth Ceriani had to pay a price many could not afford which delayed or even prevented diagnosis, putting their lives at risk. Others, particularly minority women like Runi Lumari, with slightly different mutations, are given ambiguous information under Myriad's test because their particular mutation isn't included in Myriad's test and the company's monopoly has prevented the development of tests that would be more accurate. And, finally, women with the mutation, like Genae Gerard, were faced with the drastic decision to have a mastectomy or have their ovaries removed without the ability to get a second opinion.
Who owns your body? -- a short ACLU animated video explaining the BRCA1 and BRCA2 case.
How is it that for 30 years the U.S. Patent Office has been allowing companies to patent human genes -- not just breast cancer-related genes, but genes associated with colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, and many other diseases. These are natural products of our bodies?! Mind you, this isn't the process for testing the genes. These are the genes themselves.
The U.S. Supreme Court got it right today. Our genes belong to us. Period.